Ireland and Italy in stalemate
Published 31/05/2014 | 23:22
Ireland held World Cup-bound Italy to a goalless draw at Craven Cottage on Saturday night.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, whose side begin their World Cup campaign against England on June 14 in Manaus, used the friendly in London to try out some of his fringe players before naming his final 23-man squad for Brazil.
Ireland looked the more dangerous of the two sides and were unlucky not to go in front in the 78th minute when substitute Stephen Kelly saw his effort beat Italy goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu but hit the crossbar.
Sirigu had earlier made some fantastic saves to deny Ireland the lead.
Italy are now winless in their last six games and to complicate matters for Prandelli, AC Milan midfielder Riccardo Montolivo was carried off on a stretcher early on with a leg injury which could make him a doubt for the World Cup.
Prandelli fielded Fiorentina striker Giuseppe Rossi, who was looking to prove his fitness having recently recovered from a right knee injury, alongside Serie A's top scorer Ciro Immobile up front.
Ireland coach Martin O'Neill made five changes to the side that lost 2-1 in a friendly against Turkey in Dublin last weekend.
Italy dominated possession early on and had the first chance of the match in the fifth minute.
Ireland goalkeeper David Forde had to dive at full stretch to clear Claudio Marchisio's powerful 30-yard effort towards the far post.
Prandelli was forced to make his first substitution in the 15th minute with Alberto Aquilani replacing the injured Montolivo.
Montolivo, acting as captain, hurt his left leg in a challenge with Alex Pearce and had to be carried from the pitch.
Ireland created their first chance in the 21st minute with Anthony Pilkington's free-kick towards the far post kept out by Sirigu.
Matteo Darmian, making his senior debut with Italy, came close to breaking the deadlock a minute later but his diagonal effort went just wide.
Ireland continued to press forward and David Meyler's stinging drive from outside the area forced Sirigu to palm the ball over the bar.
In the 33rd minute, Sirigu made a superb save to keep out Shane Long's close-range header from Aiden McGeady's cross from the left.
Prandelli made his second substitution before half-time with Marco Parolo replacing an injured Aquilani.
Ireland picked up where they left off after the re-start and twice had opportunities to score early in the second half.
Wes Hoolahan fed Long in the box but his right-footed strike was saved by Sirigu, and then s econds later Pilkington's curled attempt flew inches wide.
Italy thought they had taken the lead in the 56th minute when Immobile got on the end of Parolo's pass and struck the ball past Forde only to see his goal disallowed for offside.
Prandelli brought on Antonio Cassano before the hour mark in the hope the Parma forward could make the difference.
In the 65th minute, Cassano spotted an unmarked Marchisio in the area and the Juventus midfielder wasted a great chance as he struck the ball straight at Forde.
With 12 minutes remaining, Ireland put a great move together and came close to scoring.
James McClean's cross found Quinn in the box and his right-footed shot hit the bar as Italy escaped with a draw.
The Azzurri take on Luxembourg next week in their final friendly before travelling to Brazil.
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